Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bush Does Earmarks Too

By Cernig

The NY Times reports that, after complaining about Congressional earmarks long and hard, the White House has requested money for thousands of similar projects in the recent budget - often more than Congress asked for the same projects. And Congresscritters are ready to bite back.
He asked for money to build fish hatcheries, eradicate agricultural pests, conduct research, pave highways, dredge harbors and perform many other specific local tasks.

...The projects, itemized in thousands of pages of budget documents submitted last week to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, show that the debate over earmarks is much more complex than the “all or nothing” choice usually presented to the public. The president and Congress both want to direct money to specific projects, but often disagree over the merits of particular items.

The White House contends that when the president requests money for a project, it has gone through a rigorous review — by the agency, the White House or both — using objective criteria.

Congressional leaders said they would focus more closely on items requested by the president this year. “The executive branch should be held accountable for its own earmark practices,” said the House Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said Democrats agreed that “the large number of presidential earmarks deserve the same scrutiny and restraint” as those that originated in Congress.
Just don't call the White House version "earmarks".
The White House defines “earmarks” in a way that applies only to projects designated by Congress, not to those requested by the administration.

“Earmarks,” as defined by the White House, “are funds provided by Congress for projects or programs where the Congressional direction (in bill or report language) circumvents the merit-based or competitive allocation process, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the executive branch to properly manage funds.”

...In his State of the Union address last year, Mr. Bush complained that 90 percent of Congressional earmarks were concealed in committee reports.

“You didn’t vote them into law,” Mr. Bush told Congress. “I didn’t sign them into law. Yet they’re treated as if they have the force of law.”

On Jan. 29, Mr. Bush ordered federal officials to “ignore any future earmark that is not voted on and included in a law approved by Congress.”

The president submits legislative language to Congress for every appropriations bill, but most of his project requests are not found there. They are buried in thick documents that carry titles like “Budget Estimates” or “Justification of Estimates for Appropriations Committees.”
Somebody ask John McCain, who recently pledged that he would veto any bill with any earmarks whatsoever, whether that included White House earmarks.

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